Saturday, January 30, 2010
Tea & Books Saturday #5 - "The Afternoon Tea Cookbook"
The Afternoon Tea Cookbook
By Linda Hewitt
Published by Stein and Day, 1982
A year or two ago, I was visiting my mom and she said "Oh, here's something I picked up for you at a yard sale. You've probably already got it, but it was just a quarter..." I was, of course, quite thrilled to see a tea book I'd not yet come across. And while I had glanced at the recipes before this week, not until I set about actually reading this book did I realize that it is really half-tea history and half-tea cookbook. It's a pretty pleasing combination, and I'm amazed at all the tea information the author included at a time when teatime had not really made its big comeback in this country! Early on in the book, Hewitt expressed her desire to see tea take a new direction: "The recent success of spiced and scented teas shows how ready the American tea fancier is to try something other than the blend of blacks that has come to dominate this market in the last fifty years. Perhaps green teas, which once accounted for much of the market and are now rarely seen at all in this country, will make a comeback." I would imagine she is quite pleased at the tea choices we have available today!
In the history part of the book, I was most impressed (to my great surprise!) with the chapter on the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the Shoguns. One shogun was so enamored of the tea experience, he rewarded his soldiers with gifts of tea artifacts rather than weapons! I have a much better appreciation, now, of the cha-no-yu ceremony and how everything about it is so meaningful to both host and guest. And while I'll probably stick to my preference for English style teatimes, I will definitely give more thought to using meaningful teawares, colors and food experiences for my guests. I also liked the chapter on "The English Aristocracy and Afternoon Tea," where I learned the name of the place where Anna, the Duchess of Bedford first took afternoon tea: Belvior Castle. There is also an exhaustive (but not exhausting) chapter devoted to planning afternoon tea, and it alone would be a great primer for any newcomer to teatime.
And then there are the recipes. This week I have already tried (and very much enjoyed) the Tuna Almond Sandwich recipe, and there are lots of Breads, Cakes, Confections, Cookies, Tarts, Tartlets and Pastries to explore as well. This book also includes an index that will be helpful when researching particular people/places/things related to tea. The history book/cookbook combination makes this book a unique one to add to your tea library -- and it's one of the best quarters my mother ever spent!